Highlights for IT Conversations


There were several shows that caught my attention last week on IT Conversations. I'd intended to blog about these separately as I listened to them, but time marches on...

Thomas Malone's presentation from Accelerating Change was one I'd heard in 2004 at SuperNova. Malone's book, The Future of Work: How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management Style and Your Life, is the basis for his talk. Both the talk and the book are worth your time.

Malone's thesis is that whenever new cheap materials show up in the economy, they change the way we live and the way we work. The cheap new material of our day is communication. Cheap communications is creating new, innovative ways to organize teams. For example, the real innovation of Wikipedia isn't the wiki, but rather the new distributed work structure that it created.

eBay is another favorite example of Malone's. There are over 400,000 people who make the majority of their living by selling things on eBay. If eBay had to hire all these people, they'd be one of the world's largest companies. But in fact, these people aren't eBay employees or even contractors. In fact, they pay eBay. They do this because eBay's global infrastructure allows them to work with unparalleled freedom. eBay has reinvented retailing by outsourcing everything but the transactions.

Malone discusses a scenario that he developed for Intel that uses internal markets to allocate fabrication resources to products. Here's a clip of Malone discussing that scenario and how it works.

Another talk that caught my ear was Rebecca MacKinnon's talk from PopTech! If you're as interested in China as I am, then you'll want to listen to this. MacKinnon was the CCN Bureau Chief in Beijing in the 90's and is now at the Berkman Center. She discusses how the Internet is changing life in China in spite of government censorship.

One interesting story is about how China's version of American Idol is allowing people to vote, even if they can't vote for political leaders. She relates stories from Chinese blogs saying exactly that.

MacKinnon's no apologist for China's government. In fact, she goes into great detail about how the government uses technology to censor speech as well as punish dissidents. Censorship is being built into media and user-created content business models and thus it's not slowing down innovation in this space. Should we be concerned? Maybe. If China's successful in building successful media businesses with censorship "baked into the code" then other countries might be tempted to follow suit.

I always enjoy hearing Dave Sifry give his State of the Blogosphere address. Sifry gives some special attention to the rise of blog spam and it's affect on blogs.